LOUDONVILLE — Siena men’s basketball will play Marist this week, not Niagara.
And, that’s not the only change to the team’s remaining MAAC schedule.
Actually, pretty much all of that has changed again, as the league continues to try to adjust amid disruptions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A day after the America East Conference, which includes UAlbany, announced it will begin scheduling games “in two-week increments for the rest of the season . . . in order to maximize scheduling flexibility in order to best position programs in light of COVID-19 issues,” the MAAC offered more sweeping changes of its remaining schedule.
First-place Siena’s new-look schedule now sees the team play at Marist this Saturday (1 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.). Then, Siena will play Feb. 3 vs Canisius, Feb. 5-6 vs. Quinnipiac, Feb. 12-13 at Niagara, Feb. 17 vs. Canisius, Feb. 26-27 vs. Manhattan and March 4-5 at Iona.
Also announced Monday, the Siena women’s basketball program experienced multiple new schedule changes. Head coach Ali Jaques’ program’s series against Manhattan and Saint Peter’s were reversed in their order. Siena will now play Manhattan on Feb. 6-7 and Saint Peter’s on Feb. 12-13.
NO POINTS, MAJOR IMPACT
One of the messages Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello said he’s trying to make sure his players hear right now is that they “don’t need to score points to validate them being good basketball players.”
“Look at Nick Hopkins’ stat line,” Maciariello said after Saturday’s 47-40 win, which was the first victory a Siena team had earned while scoring in the 40s since 1965.
For the most part, there’s not a lot to see in the box score next to Hopkins’ name from Saturday’s victory. The 6-foot-0 guard played 34 minutes, missed the one field-goal attempt he took, collected three rebounds and had one assist.
But Siena outscored Saint Peter’s 39-31 during the minutes Hopkins played and was outscored 9-8 when the graduate student rested.
In short: Siena won when Hopkins played and lost when he didn’t.
The same thing was true in Friday’s game, which saw Saint Peter’s win to snap Siena’s 16-game winning streak. Siena outscored Saint Peter’s 60-55 that night in the 36 minutes Hopkins played, and Saint Peter’s outdid Siena 13-2 when the graduate student rested.
Was Friday a big night for Hopkins on offense?
Nope — he scored five points on 1 of 8 shooting.
But Hopkins doesn’t make mistakes on offense and is Siena’s best on-ball perimeter defender. Even when he’s not scoring, his presence is felt.
“He did a great job both nights defensively, pressuring full court,” Maciariello said. “Getting in a stance and guarding full court, 94 feet, and that really has an impact on teams that are trying to run the type of offense Saint Peter’s runs.”
Siena’s games against Saint Peter’s were the team’s first this season that saw the Saints score fewer than 74 points. Siena is ranked as the MAAC’s top offense in terms of efficiency, according to kenpom.com, but Maciariello wants the Saints’ defense — which ranks sixth — to catch up.
“I don’t care about people saying we got a great offense,” Maciariello said after Saturday’s win. “I want to have a great defense. You win championships with great defense.”
Through Sunday’s action, only 11 players in the country have blocked at least six shots in multiple games this season in Division I men’s basketball, according to sports-reference.com.
Saint Peter’s junior KC Ndefo, the reigning MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, has three such games — and two of them were against Siena.
Ndefo blocked six shots in Saint Peter’s win Friday against Siena, then blocked seven shots when the teams’ met again Saturday.
Ndefo leads the nation in blocked shots per game at 4.1.